Thursday, June 30, 2011

Confusions II

This bothered me for most of the way through the book: Why did the Trojans (and especially their neighbors) insist on protecting Paris and Helen. The Trojans should have just given Helen back and maybe surrendered Paris to Menelaus for punishment (death). The whole war seems pretty pointless. The other kings from around Troy especially confuse me. Why did they even show up to defend Troy? Were they looking for glory? Or did they expect future help from Troy if they won? Did they have some economic ties to Troy's port?

I ran this question by a certain friend of mine whose broken ankles will not be named here (yes, by now they certainly have names) and he said that the primary reason that the other kings came to help and that they Trojans stood up against the Achaeans at all was because the Achaeans were invaders. Apparently Greeks thought that place matters. The very ground on which your city was built was important, not just the city itself. Thus if foreigners came to take your city, they were automatically the ones in the wrong. While I can understand this, the Achaeans were not really there to take the city. They were there for Paris's blood and for Helen and maybe a little cash for their troubles in sailing all the way over there to get her. In fact, after Menelaus kicks Paris's butt, they offer those exact terms to the Trojans and get nothing.

Maybe my misunderstanding has a lot to do with my Judeo-Christian, American mind. I think (call me crazy) that human life has inherent value and that wars, while justifiable, are tragedies and should be avoided. The Greeks, especially the Spartans, seem to enjoy war or at least not really mind it. Maybe the Trojans and their neighbors are of the same mind.

I still think the whole Trojan war was pretty silly.

Odd Notes, ktl.*

The devotion to the duties of a host in Greek culture is wonderful. Achilles gets up himself to cook a meal for Odysseus and Ajax even though he clearly had servants who could do it for him. It is a rare instance of Achilles humbling himself to serve.

59.5 "Son, Minerva and Juno will make you strong if they choose, but check your high temper for the better part is in goodwill. Eschew vain quarreling, and the Achaeans sold and young will respect you more for doing so."
Achilles would not be a memorable as he was if he did not listen to his father, but he would have been a better man. Maybe he knew that and decided that he would discard respect for glory.

Messengers and heralds are very good at repeating word for word what was told them. No one ever summarizes the message being sent. Even if there are entirely superfluous rambles in the message, the bearer always repeats the same words to the one for whom they were meant.

*kappa tau lambda is the greek version of etc.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jove and Eagles

51.1 Jove: "If I see anyone acting apart and helping either Trojans or Danaans he shall be beaten inordinately ere he come back again to Olympus"

First, I have to say that the threat of 'inordinate beatings' is humorous to me.

Second, my first thought about the meaning of this passage was completely wrong. I thought "Hey, that's interesting. Jove is acting as the least partial of the gods. At least there is some order up there." Unfortunately what is really meant by this passage bears itself out in the following pages. Jove wreaks havoc on the Achaeans that day. He really just wanted the playing field to himself. Even worse, he, being the most powerful of the gods and able to command the rest, is the most fickle in his favors.

Jove's shows his unfaithfulness later that same day when Agamemnon pleads with him to spare the Achaean ships.
53.5 "Thus did he pray, and father Jove pitying his tears vouchsafed him that his people should live, not die; forthwith he sent them an eagle, most unfailingly portentous of all birds , with a young fawn in its talons."

Again we see that you can buy off the gods as long as you sacrifice regularly. Also, that is one huge bird.